Bellevue to hold special election to fill City Council vacancy -
Published Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 11:00 am
Bellevue to hold special election to fill City Council vacancy

Bellevue will hold a special election to fill a City Council vacancy created in March when Scott Houghtaling moved.

The council approved the election for Ward 1 after three tense months of deadlock and a raucous meeting Monday evening.

Dozens of residents had asked the council to get the matter resolved, and Secretary of State John Gale wrote a letter chastising the city for taking so long to decide on the next step.

The election will take place Oct. 15, according to the Sarpy County Election Commission.

According to state law, a mayor fills an open position with the consent of the City Council.

But three Bellevue council members blocked Mike Hall, Mayor Rita Sanders' appointee to the post, saying that another candidate, Dave Compton, had better qualifications.

Sanders and the council's other two members had voted down a special election proposed by the council members who had blocked Hall.

On Monday night, Sanders offered a different appointee, Bill Bonitz. The same three council members who opposed Hall — Don Preister, Carol Blood and Steve Knutson — also rejected Bonitz, saying the only correct course of action was an election.

Councilwoman Kathy Saniuk asked Preister, Blood and Knutson whether they would accept any appointee. They said no; they would only approve a special election. “I'd rather see the people make the choice,” Knutson said.

Blood said she would have accepted an appointee earlier, but now wants an election.

So Saniuk switched her earlier vote against a special election. Sanders also reversed course and approved the election, though she said she was unhappy about the cost.

The Sarpy County election commissioner has said the election will cost up to $10,000.

The added expense comes at a time when the city is trying to cut $5 million from next year's budget.

Councilman Paul Cook voted against the election.

Monday night's session occurred before a nearly full council chamber, and the audience expressed its displeasure with the group.

Former council member John Ott said Gale had admonished the council as a parent would admonish a child.

“I think he didn't just slap your hand, I think he flat-out slapped you on the bottom,” Ott said.

He urged the council to approve Bonitz's appointment.

Preister, council president, tried to say that Gale had supported the idea of a special election when he wrote “If it takes a special election, the Mayor and Council must expeditiously move forward with that special election without the need for a citizen's lawsuit.”

But people in the audience interrupted Preister by yelling, “No!”

Later, Saniuk read from Gale's press release: “The role of the council members is to provide a check on the appointment process to ensure that the appointee is qualified and suited for the position. It's not the role of the council to arbitrarily reject an appointee because they want a different candidate — one that more closely meets their political goals.”

At another point in the meeting, Councilwoman Blood argued with Chuck Fredrick, a former councilman and longtime council observer.

The mayor eventually used her gavel to stop the exchange and told Fredrick to leave the podium.

Fredrick, who applied for the vacant Ward 1 seat, had earlier contended that Sanders should appoint Steve Carmichael, who lost to Houghtaling in last year's election.

Fredrick left the podium, but only after telling Blood that he knows more people in Ward 1 than she does and that they agree with him.

Contact the writer: Roseann Moring    |   402-444-1084    |  

Roseann covers Bellevue and Sarpy County crime.

Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
Dems criticize governor hopeful Beau McCoy's ad in which he strikes a Barack Obama doll
Man, 21, shot in ankle while walking near 30th, U Streets
State Department moves to delay Keystone XL pipeline decision
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
High court denies death row appeal of cult leader convicted of murder
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
< >
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »